Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions

By Susan Burch

240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6162-9
    Published: April 2021
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5883-2
    Published: February 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6161-2
    Published: April 2021
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6336-4
    Published: February 2021

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Awards & distinctions

2021 Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, National Women's Studies Association

2022 Outstanding Book Award, Disability History Association

Finalist, 2024 ACLS Open Access Book Prize (History Category), American Council of Learned Societies

Between 1902 and 1934, the United States confined hundreds of adults and children from dozens of Native nations at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, a federal psychiatric hospital in South Dakota. But detention at the Indian Asylum, as families experienced it, was not the beginning or end of the story. For them, Canton Asylum was one of many places of imposed removal and confinement, including reservations, boarding schools, orphanages, and prison-hospitals. Despite the long reach of institutionalization for those forcibly held at the Asylum, the tenacity of relationships extended within and beyond institutional walls.

In this accessible and innovative work, Susan Burch tells the story of the Indigenous people—families, communities, and nations, across generations to the present day—who have experienced the impact of this history. Drawing on oral history interviews, correspondence, material objects, and archival sources, Burch reframes the histories of institutionalized people and the places that held them. Committed expands the boundaries of Native American history, disability studies, and U.S. social and cultural history generally.

Open Access ebook sponsored by Middlebury College

About the Author

Susan Burch is professor of American studies at Middlebury College.
For more information about Susan Burch, visit the Author Page.


"A model of how to write histories that are as inclusive and broadly accessible as they are necessary."—H-Net

"Susan Burch's Committed is a pithy yet powerful read."—Law and History Review

"This slim volume packs a powerful punch. . . . Burch's theoretical framing of the subject is brilliant and encourages us to reckon with the history of psychiatric thought and its manifestation in institutional practice in new ways."—Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

"A short but powerful book. . . . Committed offers a case study of how Native American history should be researched and written."—Annals of Iowa

"By identifying institutionalized people, mostly women, whose stories could be patched together through archival records and contemporary oral history interviews, Burch brings them out of the shadows to underscore not only the human cost but also the human capacity for hope, healing, and survival under the worst of circumstances."—Journal of American History

"Committed is story and history. A much-needed public, intergenerational history unveils yet another mode of removal, incarceration, and violence against Indigenous women and families and the other side of it through the stories of descendants. A necessary read to understand the historic breadth and forms of Indian Removal."—Jacki T. Rand, University of Iowa